(Jul. 24, 2008 - Escanaba, Mich.)
Pro Pat Byle of Colgate, Wis., caught five walleyes weighing 19 pounds, 13 ounces Thursday to take the lead in the Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour presented by Berkley event on Bays de Noc in Escanaba, Mich., with a two-day total of 10 walleyes weighing 39-14.
Byle now holds a 2-pound, 9-ounce lead heading into the third day of competition in the nationally televised tournament that features 248 competitors fishing for top awards of $100,000 in the Pro Division and $20,000 in the Co-angler Division.
"I had a tougher day today than yesterday," said Byle, who has five top-10 finishes in nine seasons of FLW Walleye Tour competition. "Yesterday, all I had to do was set up and the fish were there. Today, I had to go looking. The fish were hard to come by and a lot of boats around me. I kept getting pushed off where I was fishing and that made it difficult."
Byle plans on fishing the same areas Friday to make the top-10 cut. He covered around 50 miles of water including key spots in Big Bay and Little Bay.
"I have been fishing these areas for 15 years," Byle said. "These are the exact same spots that I know are loaded with fish."
Byle won an NWC tournament on Bays de Noc in 1995 and would love to add a Walleye Tour victory to that.
"It would be a dream come true to win another tournament here," Byle added. "So, tomorrow I will go fishing and try to make that happen."
Rounding out the top five pros are day-one leader Chad Schilling of Akaska, S.D. (nine walleyes, 37-05); Joshua Vanderweide of Jenison, Mich. (six walleyes, 37-01); Kim Papineau of Escanaba, Mich. (seven walleyes, 34-13) and Tom Keenan of Hatley, Wis. (10 walleyes, 33-06).
Jerry Miller of Lowell, Ind., leads the Co-angler Division with a two-day total of 10 walleyes weighing 39 pounds, 15 ounces. He caught five walleyes weighing 20-11 Wednesday while fishing with Nick Heelein of Genoa City, Wis., then added another four walleyes weighing 19-4 Thursday while fishing with Thomas Vanderweide of Jenison, Wis.
"This is my first time leading and it feels really good," said Miller, who is fishing in only his second season on the FLW Walleye Tour. "I had a great partner today and I owe it all to him.
"We only caught a total of five fish today. It was a tough bite but we were on the right type of fish. I look forward to going fishing tomorrow and hopefully making the cut."
Pros and co-anglers fish for a combined boat weight. Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Kim Knudson of Glendive, Mont. (seven walleyes, 36-06), Heath Fremstad of Mondovi, Wis. (nine walleyes, 32-07), Pete Stasney of New Prague, Minn. (eight walleyes, 31-05) and Fred Gordon of Willmar, Minn., (six walleyes, 31-02).
Overall there were 162 walleyes weighing 721 pounds, 15 ounces caught by 134 boats Thursday. The catch included five-walleye limits.
Pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day and fish for a combined boat weight. Pros compete against other pros, and co-anglers compete against other co-anglers. The full field competes during the three-day opening round for one of 10 final-round slots based on their three-day accumulated weight. Weights carry over to day four, with winners determined by the heaviest four-day weight.
Escanaba Harbor in Escanaba will host daily takeoffs each morning at 7. Friday's weigh-in will be held at Escanaba Harbor beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday's takeoff will be at Escanaba Harbor at 6:30 a.m. Saturday's final weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 601 N. Lincoln Road in Escanaba beginning at 4:30 p.m. The community is invited to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins, which are free and open to the public.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, call (270) 252-1000.